Trump's V-P pick Mike Pence: Manners, political chops

Pence (above) was apparently the favourite of Trump’s children, who exercise much influence over the brash billionaire.
Pence (above) was apparently the favourite of Trump’s children, who exercise much influence over the brash billionaire.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK (AFP) - Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Christian conservative Donald Trump announced as his running mate on Friday (July 15), adds precious experience in Washington politics - and a dose of good manners - to the Republican ticket.

Governor of the Midwest state since only January 2013, the 57-year-old is a lawyer by training and used to host a radio talk show, so his communication skills are strong.

And he knows his way around Washington: He held a seat in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013 and served as chairman of the House Republican Conference - the party's third most important position on Capitol Hill - from 2009 to 2011.

 

Seen as disciplined and relatively discreet, Pence was apparently the favourite of Trump's children, who exercise much influence over the brash billionaire and political novice as he campaigns for president.

Trump announced his pick in a tweet.

"I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate," he wrote, adding that he would host a press conference Saturday at 11 am (11pm Singapore time).

Pence's qualities stand in contrast to the more unpredictable personalities of two other politicians who were considered by Trump: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

The current House speaker, Paul Ryan, whose relations with Trump are delicate, says he considers Pence a friend.

Pence's connections could help ease tensions with a Republican Party still having a hard time digesting Trump, and raise funds for the campaign.

And Pence's quiet, low-profile personality, shaped in large part by his Christian faith, poses little threat of overshadowing that of Trump, who values loyalty in the people who work with him.

Trump and Pence did not know each other particularly well until now.

Pence is a conservative defender of family values, very religious, against abortion and gay marriage, and opposed to the idea of the US taking in Syrian refugees.

He has described himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order."

As governor, he has signed Bills making it harder for women in Indiana to have abortions, with Indiana the second US state to prohibit ending a pregnancy because the foetus suffers abnormalities.

And he has drawn criticism for a law that critics say discriminates against the LGBT community.

Trump has met with Pence several times in recent days and campaigned with him on Tuesday evening in Indiana.

On Wednesday, Trump and his children met with Pence, who is not well known outside of Republican circles.

Pence is seen as helping Trump boost support among traditional conservatives and especially evangelical Christians wary of Trump, and perhaps even in the Rust Belt - the decaying former industrial area that includes Indiana and neighbouring Ohio.

Some Republican lawmakers said they liked the idea of Pence as his running mate, saying the decision would improve "the tone and tenor of the debate."

"I'm a big fan of Mike Pence, and I think he has probably has a better chance of moving the candidate, perhaps, where he should be," Jeff Flake was quoted as saying.

He is an Arizona Senator who took part in a tense meeting last week between Republicans and Trump.

"He's conservative, and he's smart, and he's been good on trade and immigration as well," Flake added.

While Trump has campaigned on a protectionist platform, Pence adheres to the laissez-faire economic views that are more conventionally Republican. He has also denounced Trump's proposal to close US borders to Muslims as "unconstitutional."

But some experts say Pence would not help Trump expand his voter base, especially among independents and moderate Republicans, to whom the Democrat Hillary Clinton is expected to reach out.

Pence had previously been waging an uphill battle to win re-election in Indiana.